Stemming the loss of trained technicians in the manufacturing industry by introducing a new generation to trade careers is what recently motivated Pen Argyl Area School District to partner with the Career Institute of Technology in Easton on a new one-day program at the start of this 2018-2019 school year.

Teachers from kindergarten to 12th grade along with guidance counselors visited the vocational-technical school during a professional development in-service day for a tour, to meet with CIT teachers, and to learn about the curriculum and career opportunities.

For many of them who had not stepped foot in the school ever or in a very long time, it was an opportunity to be re-educated about what modern technical careers are like, including those in manufacturing.

We asked teachers from CIT as well as the school district to share their impressions of the program with us and tell us what they learned from each other.

Chad Feilbach, CIT Welding Technology Instructor

  • I couldn’t be more impressed with the Pen Argyl staff’s enthusiasm and motivation to learn about CIT. They were respectful and eager to ask great questions about our school. Most notably, the teachers and guidance counselors were impressed with the high academic standards that our students are held to at CIT. The staff were surprised to find out that the welding students are trained in measuring, geometry, algebra, and trigonometry.
  • This event allowed the Pen Argyl staff to receive a visual understanding of what CIT has to offer. They were able to see the cutting-edge technology of each program they visited. This experience allows counselors and teachers to better advocate specific programs at CIT that would best fit the interested student. The staff members will also be able to better explain the broad range of benefits at CIT to parents and guardians.
  • There was an immediate respect and rapport for all of the educators involved with this meeting. Pen Argyl School District showed a willingness to learn about other educational avenues available for students. Although the approach is different, both educational facilities share the mindset that a student’s success is an ultimate goal. As educators it is our responsibility to help the student’s decide what method to use to ensure that success.

Dorothy Lindblad, CIT Teacher of Early Childhood Education

  • Having the Pen Argyl teachers visit our classrooms gave us the opportunity to clarify what our school offers in our partnership with them. Our goals are the same – to prepare students for successful futures after high school. Each student has unique strengths and weaknesses, and we must work together to help them clarify how they can find fulfilling careers that use those strengths.
  • Most people don’t have enough knowledge about what we really do at CIT. Career and Tech Education is not the old vo-tech that people remember from when they were in high school. The PA Department of Education has put into place very strict guidelines about our curriculum and programs and the classes are quite rigorous.
  • Many of the teachers did not know that we have articulation agreements with colleges and universities which allow students to earn college credit for many of our courses. Many were surprised that CIT teachers are required to integrate higher level math and literacy skills within our courses. In fact, using these skills in real work situations drives home the importance of gaining math and literacy skills. One example would be learning fractions in order to correctly cut a length of wood for our house project. If it’s not measured correctly, there is a real-world consequence that it won’t fit.

Catherine Novello – Pen Argyl High School Teacher

  • It allowed teachers to learn about the programs available to students as well as the skills required for students to succeed. It was very helpful to meet with the CIT instructors to learn about the trades. Clearly students need academic and interpersonal skills to succeed in technical careers. And for some students who may not excel in a traditional classroom, exposure to technical careers may provide an alternative and a motivating force.
  • I learned that there are many academic skills that students must master to succeed in manufacturing, specifically math and science. Also, students who aspire to own their own businesses must develop interpersonal and business skills. Lastly, manufacturing is an evolving field. For example, in the electrical shop we learned about renewable energy sources.
  • The program was excellent. It provided me with the necessary information to encourage and support students who choose this path. It also made me realize how challenging the programs are and the diversity of skills required to succeed. Many of the shops have a lot in common with topics we teach – energy sources, interpersonal skills, business ownership, and working with diverse populations.

Tracey O’Connell – Plainfield Elementary School Teacher, Pen Argyl School District

  • I am an elementary teacher and even at our level children need to understand the value of a career path outside of the usual college track. Our society is changing and opportunities for careers in alternative fields such as mechanics, health and wellness, machining, and technology are the wave of the future. I learned that the need for these positions is in high demand currently, and the opportunity to earn a good income exceeds what I originally thought. Not all children want to go to college and they need to know what other careers are available that pique their interest. College is not the only way to go. There are so many more opportunities for young adults.
  • I absolutely loved the format of the event. Getting a taste of what the students experience provided me with insight for what our children will need as they move through their educational journey. I often hear from students: “Why do I need to learn this when I won’t need it?” I am the math support teacher for kindergarten through third grade and to be able to explain to them that basic math is needed for everything from painting a car and fixing computers, to programming and gaming (which is often a field they want to go into), or building a dwelling or structure makes learning those facts and problem solving closer to their world.
  • Being aware of the different career paths opened up a new perspective for me. It makes me think outside of the box. I came from the 1980-1990’s era where college was the way to go. Now, that is no longer the only option. I loved learning about the different trades that CIT offers. I was in awe as to how many opportunities are out there.